Saturday, August 18, 2007

Khalil Gibran Intl' Academy event - 8/20


Press Advisory Contact: Erica
Phone: 718-431-4465
For Immediate Release Email:

Diverse groups applaud Almontaser’s work and urge public officials to “reject racism”

August 17, 2007; New York, NY— Communities in Support of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a diverse
group of community leaders and organizations, plan to express their backing of KGIA on Monday, August 20,
2007. Below is the text of their statement of support.

Statement of Support for Khalil Gibran International Academy
As New Yorkers in support of quality public education for all our communities, we stand in solidarity with the
Khalil Gibran International Academy, which has sustained hateful and false attacks by anti-Arab media and
extremists. In the post-9/11 world, a school educating our children about Arab history, culture, and language is
not only crucial for the next generation to become informed leaders for positive change in our communities; it is
also an extraordinary place of hope for peace, understanding, and justice for our embattled world. We regret
that Debbie Almontaser was pressured to resign and applaud her work to establish this school and promote
intercultural exchange in this diverse global city.

Those who seek to equate the study of Arabic language, culture, and history with religious fanaticism and
violence are irresponsibly aggravating a present moment of hysteria against Arab and Muslim communities, and
are using this moment to promote hatred in a time of war. We urge our public officials to reject these racist and
inaccurate attacks and continue to work towards building a lasting educational institution that promises to bring
our communities together, rather than divide and pit them against each other. We call on all New Yorkers who
want to see peace on our streets and in our world to stand with us in support of the Khalil Gibran International

Event Information
Peaceful Demonstration in Support of KGIA
Monday, August 20, 2007 at 6:00 PM
NYC Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street


For an up-to-date list of event sponsors, please visit Interviews available upon request.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pakistan: 60 years on...

I'm excited to announce that an article I just wrote on the 60th anniversary of Pakistan's founding has just been published by one of Pakistan's most respected newspapers: The Nation. I'm thrilled!

I've copied it below and the webpage is here.

As always, comments appreciated and always sought after!

Pakistan: 60 years on

Zeeshan Suhail

Six long decades have passed since Muhammad Ali Jinnah saw his dream come true when Pakistan was created on August 14th, 1947. We had so much to be proud of when the country was founded: a secular homeland for South Asia’s Muslims, where those from minority backgrounds could also live in peace and harmony; a country whose economy grew to be self-reliant and resilient; a nation whose people were prosperous and content.

Yet a cursory perusal of Pakistan’s state of affairs in the 21st century reveals anything but what I’ve mentioned above. Our people are victims of inter- and intra-religious conflict. Our economy has been spurred by Western aid, grants and loans. And lastly, our people are demoralized and distraught. It is evident we do not have much to be proud of.

It is in such dire straits that I cannot help but think of what Pakistanis can do - particularly members of the Diaspora - in these trying times. The task at hand is difficult, but it requires broad vision, strategic thinking and boundless ambition. I outline some of the more important issues at hand below. God knows there is so much more to be done. We must start somewhere. I hope this article is a good place to begin.

The rule of law is the single most important pillar of any society where citizens of the state can look to for redress of their grievances and for the upholding of sacred values such as equality among all citizens. No one is above the law. It is because of this reason that we should not fear law enforcers, but demand their assistance as and when it is needed. To know that the integrity of Pakistan’s Constitution could have been compromised severely this past spring when the Chief Justice was sacked was more of a plausible fear for me than the number of lives that could have been lost in subsequent protests demanding justice. Knowing that the whole fiasco was carried out by higher authorities angers me even more so.

Pakistan has seen most of the past six decades of its political history dominated by martial law administrators. For any country that was founded on the ideals that Pakistan was founded on, this fact serves as a rude awakening every day of its citizens lives. To see such talent, such potential go to waste every day because the masses must act at the whim of an un-elected, un-democratic leader is extremely distressing. Those Pakistanis who lived under General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime can testify to the suffocation one could feel simply trying to survive in the country.

Accountability is the hallmark of any democratic entity, and Pakistan’s government should be no different. For most of the 1990’s, Pakistanis watched in horror as politician after politician squandered billions after billions from the national exchequer, only to leave the country yearning for sustenance. Everywhere one looked, one could not find a suitable leader. Such was the absence of oases in this barren desert that stretched for thousands of miles.

As Pakistanis look forward to a future where they are equal stakeholders in the future progress of the country, they realize the road is bumpy and may even be laden with landmines. But six decades of hardship has taught us much. We have been shoved to the side, and pushed to the floor - but not for long. An Arab proverb says it aptly: The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
But before we march henceforth, we must make an assessment of the changes that need to take place. On my list, transition to a democratically-elected government features prominently at the top. My cynical friends would laugh at this proposition. That’s how tragic our state of affairs is. What we in the West take for granted every moment of our lives, the concerned Pakistani citizen fights for every moment of her/his life.

The first step in this transition should include the return of some Pakistanis living abroad who have skills, expertise and experience as well as the language and cultural affiliation to assist in a smooth transition from a western lifestyle to an eastern one. This is not a novel concept; Indian professionals with degrees from top western schools are heading back to India to take advantage of the economic boom. I’m sure they are also looking at such an opportunity to provide some sort of service to their country.

Pakistanis should do the same. With growth rates averaging over seven percent annually for the past few years, what time other than this would anyone consider going back? Multinational enterprises scout out those with English language proficiency, and the social service sector is thriving. Pakistanis are volunteering and donating to charities in record numbers as well.

A close second to a reverse brain drain phenomenon, is the stepping down of General Pervez Musharraf. While Musharraf’s initial expedited and progressive action on various issues such as women’s rights and media liberalization was much appreciated, his recent crackdown on independent media and the judiciary have been anything but appreciated. Pakistani civil society has become so deeply entrenched with personnel from the military that it seems as if it is an extension of the government itself! It disgusts me to even think what sort of work must be done to cleanse this sector of society from the residue of the military and/or government.

I often ponder over General Musharraf’s doctrine of “enlightened moderation”. It is remarkable how rhetoric and semantics can go so far in developing the policies of a country which damage it so badly beyond repair, that the country’s citizenry can only sit and watch in horror. While this ideology is nothing but words, Musharraf’s actions - or inactions - have spoken much louder than them. His inaction when it comes to the disappearances and killings of media personnel speak volumes, as does the state-sanctioned violence targeting media outlets. The media assault on his power trips are intentional and will only increase until and unless he steps down to make way for leaders who have what it takes to lead us out of harm’s way.

In my work on an initiative called “Hope not Hate” with an NGO called Americans for Informed Democracy, I often refer to the glorious past Muslims enjoyed - along with Jews and Christians and those of other faiths. Despite all our present day problems - from political instability to religious extremism - we can find solutions. Pakistanis would be better off revisiting their past before stepping in to the deep, dark recesses of an, as yet, unknown future. I hope we can do this with the help of the global community, for Pakistan cannot live in isolation and will be better served if it used its time-tested friends.

Much as this seems unrealistic, Pakistan must set a precedent in the geo-political realm as a state that values democratic ideals, women and religious/ethnic minorities, and true vision for a prosperous future. This means Pakistanis must formulate ways of working cooperatively with neighbors like Iran, China, Afghanistan, and of course, India. In a globalized world, we have much to gain from our allies, and also much to learn. And as we become more and more globalized, we must devise steps of reducing inequality within a socio-economic context. This should be a high priority for both policy-makers and those who are affected by the policies that are set.

I feel as if this is the time in my life where I want to stand on a podium and yell to a crowd of millions that I have a dream, much like Martin Luther King. But the fact is, this dream has come - and gone. I am actually beginning to realize it. While many of my Pakistani brethren have disappointed me in years past, I will not hold any grudges. I need their support as I help a sharply divided country begin to heal its wounds. We can’t do it alone, but we can surely try. It’s worth the effort.

The writer is a Board Member for Americans for Informed Democracy

Support "Whose Children are These?"!


Theresa Thanjan has done a splendid job in this film, and I request your strong support. All assistance is greatly appreciated! More info below...

Whose Children Are These? is an award winning documentary about the post 9/11 experiences of three Muslim teenagers and it is being offered to PBS stations in August 2007.
Supporters of the film are encouraged to send emails to the programmers of their local
PBS stations. Let them know why you feel it is imporant to show this film.
For more information on how to contact PBS, please check out this link:
About Whose Children Are These?

Whose Children Are These? provides a gripping view into the lives of
three Muslim teenagers impacted by anti-terrorism national security
measures. One such program, "Special Registration," required male
non-citizens, as young as 16 from 25 predominately Arab and Muslim
nations, to register with the US Government and resulted in the
deportation of nearly 14,000 men, with none being charged
with terrorism related crimes.

The film introduces Navila, an honors student who fought to have her
father released from detention; Sarfaraz, a popular basketball player
who confronts pending deportation; and Hager, a young woman who faces
bias and is spurred into activism as a result.
Film's official website:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Barack Obama is scaring me

Many of my friends would never forgive me if I told them I am starting to strongly dislike the democratic candidates for president, but what am I to do? They are turning a new leaf - every week!

I am especially concerned for Barack Obama. This man has set records for campaign fundraising and has become a beacon of hope for millions all over the country, and world. Yet for me, he has become nothing but a puppet in the hands of some newly-appointed neocon staffers or donors. I saw Hillary Clinton as a sellout to interest groups who helped her become the political titan she is today, and I look at Obama with the same disdain - and pity. How tragic to see such a shiny and rising star, already set the stage for his political fall.

His recent stance on Pakistan and its handling of internal and external terrorism is the cause of this rant and change in personal views. One would think that after you make controversial statements about foreign policy goals, you might want to make a critical re-assessment. After all, you're running for president - it's no joke! But Obama goes ahead and plays with semantics. One of my previous blog postings drew another blogger's ire after he completely misconstrued my critique, so I will state explicitly here that whatever I am stating here is a critique on the language Obama has used in the article.

Take, for example, the way many people thought that in his initial comments from a few days ago, he was referring to an invasion of Pakistan if Pakistan didnt crackdown on terrorists or extremists, when in fact, he was really advocating military action in Pakistan - not necessarily invasion. Fine. He's entitled to his thoughts.

Then he publishes this piece, days later, coming clean about what he actually meant: military action in the country. I've copied a salient para from the article below, to give a brief idea of his thoughts:

I have never called for an invasion of Pakistan. You don’t need thousands of American troops to take out a meeting of high-level terrorists. Any student of the American military knows that we have many options to target terrorists with limited force, many of which involve no American boots on the ground. To suggest that targeting terrorists in Pakistan would be tantamount to an invasion is to misunderstand the capabilities of the U.S. military or to misrepresent my position.

Now, he goes into decent detail outlining some methodology, so clearly, he is serious about these actions. This is no joke for him. Which compels me to ask: if he can use military force in one country to root out terror, what makes us safe to think he wont use it in other countries? Perhaps pre-emptively? If one notices the language he uses, he has not once mentioned diplomatic dialogue as a first step in rooting out this evil he has constructed quite simply for us.

This is a whole other discussion, because frankly, Americans should be much more worried about public school shootings and sexual abuse as potential creators of violent citizenry as opposed to "Islamic terrorism" (a very misleading term). If America still valued and held in high esteem what is at its core, we would never need to worry about our security. But today, it is our insecurity that forces us to amass weapons of mass destruction as we single-handedly spearhead an arms race as millions more all over the world vie for peace and security.

Obama's prospects may be good politically, but his statements and bearings have faltered - for the worse. I am fearful of a not-so-pleasant future with all these loonies in the race. Is it too much to ask for a balanced, well-rounded candidate that is on top of the game and doesnt worry about ratings?

Alas, my greed gets the best of me.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Palestinian loss of land

This is indeed tragic.

I'm wondering if someone can verify the source and/or the info presented in the image?

Courtesy of my friend Sherrise.

First Annual Sudanese Music and Dance Festival

I happened to attend this concert just by chance because a friend was going and asked if I wanted to come along - and it was a great decision to do so!

The music was so mellifluous and melodious and had the audience in raptures.

The video is extremely brief and quite the teaser but i'm looking out for the complete version if anyone could be kind enough to pass on. It gives a good idea of the quality of the artists and what the experience was like.

Hope they perform again!